As IT departments move to private cloud offerings, DevOps methodologies, and continuous integration capabilities, many segments of the data center market have a strong need for more open, programmable, and application-led networks. In these fully automated environments, network automation for infrastructure as a service (IaaS) or applications on demand is becoming essential. As discussed in a recent blog postby Ravi Balakrishnan, the Cisco Nexus 9000 offers the industry’s 1st open and extensible application policy model helping businesses increase agility, flexibility, and scalability and automate repetitive manual tasks, reducing the time to deployment and easing maintenance tasks.
A recently-issued Lippis Report provides validation that the Cisco Nexus 9000 product line offers the most comprehensive open programming tools and functions available that can either be leveraged independently, or put to work in unison with other platform capabilities. The report found that the benefits of Cisco Nexus 9000 programming environment include investment protection and improved business agility through support of open protocols, APIs and standards that leverage customers’ existing networking, services including security, physical and virtual compute, and storage assets and accelerate network application deployment times to minutes improving business agility through centralized management.
Cisco 9000 programmability enables use cases across the whole IT delivery chain in terms of being able to orchestrate and automate provisioning of network infrastructure. Applications now have special, real-time access to network buffers, congestion and state information, so that they can actually make better choices and decisions on how they’re delivering services to end-users. In addition, troubleshooting can be automated through applications having much deeper visibility into the network.
The specific use cases for Cisco NX-OS API enhancements span data center network engineers and experienced DevOps personnel in cloud and large enterprise IT organization. For network engineers, NX-OS APIs can simplify and automate common network infrastructure provisioning challenges as well as offer automated troubleshooting through enhanced network visibility.
DevOps personnel may leverage NX-OS APIs and automation tools to create their own custom scripts and leverage the NX-API into other tools with which they are already familiar to customize network device data and use it in the way that’s important for them to either deliver competitive business value or to reduce OpEx through automation.
Cisco 9000 Programmability Highlights
The Cisco NX-OS enhancements for the Cisco Nexus 9000 Series supports numerous capabilities that aid automation and orchestration including providing investment protection through the support of new automation capabilities in the future. Centralized, fine-grained access to Cisco 9000 networking resources is enabled through support for XML, JSON, representational state transfer (REST), remote procedure call (RPC), NetConf, Python scripting, Bash and Broadcom chip-level shell access, and Linux containers for development of custom applications. These APIs have full read and write access to the Cisco 9000 platform, providing programmability, automation, and system access. Cisco-NX-OS also supports APIs enabling rapid integration with existing management and orchestration frameworks. These include OpenStack interfaces to provide Cisco policy consistency across physical, virtual, and cloud environments.
If you are an open source fan, in particular GitHub, I have good news for you.
Yes, we now have a Cisco Nexus 9000 community on GitHub. While many of the initial contributions were created by Cisco employees, ANYONE is allowed and in fact encouraged to participate and share code. Pull requests are monitored and reviewed by a group of administrators to maintain a level of quality and protect users consuming code as well.
Our GitHub presence comprises two sections:
1. Cisco NX-OS Standalone Mode: Focuses on the Nexus 9000 series of switches running enhanced Nexus OS. These products include NX-API, Puppet, Chef, and scripting capabilities using Python and other shell scripts.
2. Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) Mode: Focuses on the Cisco APIC controller and Cisco ACI Object Model. This includes Python, Puppet, and Chef code samples. Additionally, it includes Tenant creation examples, Application profiles which are XML-based configurations that model applications, and southbound device automation scripts, which can be used to integrate 3rd party L4-7 devices.
If you are wondering how you take advantage of this offering, first and foremost I can assure you these code samples can speed up your learning curve with Cisco ACI and Nexus 9000 programmability aspects. Refer my Cisco ACI blog on Cisco Nexus 9000 programmability details.
Cisco always strives to innovate while meeting customer needs. Today we are proud to unveil the Cisco Nexus 3100line of switches as part of our Unified Fabric Data Center portfolio. These highly scalable, power efficient, and flexible switches feature significant improvements in port density, programmability and VXLAN capable gateway functionality that are ideal for data center top-of-rack (ToR) deployment scenarios. As the second generation Nexus 3000 series, they offer a balanced mix of performance, cost, simplicity, and an innovative feature set that complements the rest of Cisco’s overall top-of-rack solutions.
A First Glimpse…
As the below graphic indicates, both switches are 1RU in height with 32 line rate 40-Gbps Quad Small Form-Factor Pluggable (QSFP+) ports for the Nexus 3132Q and 48 line rate 10 Gbps SFP+ with 6 fixed QSFP+ ports for the Nexus 3172PQ. All of the QSFP+ ports on the device can operate as a native 40-Gbps port or a four independent 10-Gbps ports. The switches also have a serial console port, USB port, PPS connector and an out-of-band 10/100/1000-Mbps Ethernet management ports. From a software perspective, the rich NX-OS operating system fully supports the Cisco Open Network Environment framework with Openflow and the onePK toolkit in addition to standards based Layer 2 and Layer 3 features.
What does this mean for your data center? Some examples include: Improved workload flexibility, higher availability, and Read More »
Cisco today introduced Application-Centric Infrastructure as the vision for Next Generation Data Center architecture, built for both today’s physical and virtual workloads as well as tomorrow’s highly dynamic Cloud-based, and performance-intensive big data application environments. Please check out Padmasree Warrior’s blog or Cisco Unified Fabric to learn more.
What I would like to share with you is how we are evolving the Cisco Unified Fabric to deliver operational simplicity through superior integration.
Delivering Operational Simplicity through Superior Integration
As organizations accelerate private and public cloud deployments, IT organizations and data center networks must evolve to meet rapidly changing and growing requirements. Virtualized and cloud environments require more agility and simplicity to quickly deploy and migrate virtual machines. IT organizations, on the other hand, are challenged with operational complexity, architectural rigidity and infrastructure inefficiency with manual processes, disjointed provisioning, deficient software overlays, static resource allocations and disruptions when growth is needed.
The good news is that Cisco continues to evolve its Unified Fabric to address these needs. The new Cisco Dynamic Fabric Automation delivers unsurpassed operational simplicities through superior integration. It does this by …. Read More »
I had the opportunity to chat with David Yen a few days ago on a number of topics--one of the things he touched on was how he sees the data center evolving. Now seeing as David is the Senior Vice President and General Manager of our Data Center Group, there are more than just idle musings. Here is a snippet of our conversation:
Omar Sultan: David, you talk about the evolution to an application-defined fabric--from a practical perspective, what does that mean to our customers?
David Yen: We are seeing a shift from a static, IT-controlled environment to a highly dynamic, user-driven environment. The net effect is to bring IT and the business closer together so that is good, but there are some practicalities that need to be addressed in the process. Amon the things we are focused on is making IT easier to consume for app owners and making this dynamic new environment easier to manage for IT.
OS: So, what are we doing to help customers make this transition?
DY: Well, we have been giving them the tools to prepare for this on-demand world for over five years now--our entire Unified DC portfolio—Unified Fabric, Unified Computing and Unified Management --is built around making data center resources flexible and more responsive to quickly changing user demands.
Unified Fabric allows customers to quickly and easily provision network and storage access wherever and whenever they need it. Similarly, UCS Service Profiles allow a UCS server to quickly and automatically adapt to the specific needs of a new workload. We have an entire portfolio of complimentary VM-networking technologies that then ensure there is consistency between the physical and virtual environments. Finally, Unified Management orchestrates, automates, and puts the infrastructure at your fingertips. Today, you can completely configure infrastructure for your apps with a few mouse-clicks. And with Cisco ONE, we are now adding the programmatic interfaces so apps and other systems will be able to directly configure their infrastructure for themselves.
While we have been doing this for a while now, it seems some companies are just catching-up. Recently, we saw a competitor claim leadership in the data center, but if you closely examine their claims, they announced things we have been shipping for a while: cloud-optimized architecture: check, on-demand resources: check, orchestration and management tools: check, L2 Multi-Path: check. Its actually more interesting to note what’s missing—things like network and compute integration, hybrid cloud capabilities, service chaining and multi-hypervisor support. Speeds and feeds are always important, but if that’s all you can talk about, then you are not going to be relevant to today’s conversation.
OS: Where are we going next with the data center fabric?
DY: Looking ahead, there are a couple of areas we will look to address. First of all, while we know that customers are aggressively moving to VM and cloud-based workloads, there is going to be a significant transition period and most enterprise data centers will remain a mix of physical, virtual and cloud workloads and we want to give customers a more comprehensive approach to dealing with this. At the end of the day, the data center should be able to deal with all types of workloads as equal citizens. We don’t have that today in the industry--we have to resort to gateways and other mechanisms to span across physical, virtual and cloud domains--while that’s OK in the interim, its problematic in the long-term.
The other area we will address is increasing operational simplicity. In this dynamic environment, it is neither feasible nor desirable for network operations to be involved in every config change. Ultimately we need to be able to do things at machine speed. You have seen some initial steps in that direction with the Nexus 1000V and its hypervisor integration or new technologies like Power-On Auto Provisioning. Our work with Cisco Open Network Environment has given us the tools and mechanisms to open networks up to facilitate these machine-to-machine or application-to-machine conversations through APIs like onePK and REST and through support of SDN controllers and agents like OpenFlow.
OS: David, why should customers remain confident about Cisco’s vision?
DY: Betting on Cisco is not an act of faith--time and again, we have lead market transitions and delivered the technologies customers need to take advantage of those transitions. We are still, by far, the preferred networking choice, even in the most demanding environments like Massively Scalable DCs, where we are in production for 9 or 10 of the largest providers. We have more than 40,000 NX-OS customers and over 11 million 10GbE ports out there. This gives us unmatched insight into what customers are actually doing and where they are going with their networks. Similarly, we will be delivering VM network solutions across all four major hypervisors, which gives us unmatched breadth of experience in that space. Central to this longevity is avoiding technical blinders. UCS was a great example of our willingness to start off with customer needs in mind. Everything was on the table and that led us to breakthroughs like a brand new operations model based on service profiles. This willingness to risk and lead has translated into to remarkable growth in a very demanding market against a number of capable and entrenched competitors.
As I look at the competition, I see two hurdles they must clear. The first is simply one of simple experience. Its one thing to have a theoretical understanding of a technology and its quite another thing to have actually built and supported it. We have being shipping our Nexus 1000V virtual switch for four years now--we are into third generation functionality like hybrid cloud transport, cloud-based routing services, service chaining and multi-hypervisor support. Compare this to companies that are just getting around to shipping their first virtual switch and will still be working through first generation features and problems.
The second hurdle is a matter of getting caught up in a technical agenda instead of focusing on the customer’s agenda. Software in networking is all the rage right now, for some very good reasons, but you see companies that want to shift all the network functionality into the software because that suits the narrative they want to tell. Now you and I both know, there are some things that absolutely are better handled in software, but, by the same token, there are things are better handled in hardware. We have control over both and that gives us the freedom to put functions where they are best handled. We think that will always give us an advantage over companies that are locked into a particular narrative and must make compromises to support that story.
To hear more from David, and trust me, he has some interesting and entertaining things to say, check out his Solution Keynote on Monday, June 24 at CiscoLive in Orlando.